Known as a leader in email deliverability, SendGrid successfully sends over 1 billion emails per day on behalf of over 50,000 paying customers including Airbnb, Pandora, HubSpot, Spotify, Intuit, and Costco. While it is now responsible for the email infrastructure serving these industry giants, SendGrid began as a startup out of the Techstars Boulder Accelerator in 2009 and has now grown to over 350 employees worldwide.

Today, SendGrid is a Techstars Global Network Partner, working directly with startup founders in Techstars’ 30+ accelerator programs in 19 cities around the world by hosting dedicated office hours and private workshops. In addition to offering expertise on email marketing, the SendGrid team provides the technical and business mentorship startups need to succeed. Because startups are a part of SendGrid’s growth, the company has built a number of initiatives to reach this customer.

How it Works

SendGrid sets the bar high when it comes to rules of engagement for partners. It doesn’t just write a check, give a demo, buy a keg, and slap a logo on the wall. Techstars’ Network Partners create a deep and meaningful engagement with the startup founders, so that the relationship is mutually beneficial for the long haul. The relationship begins with office hours, mentorship, and workshops, and grows into a genuine dedication to each startup’s success. It begins from a place of #GiveFirst, which is Techstars’ ethos around giving back for the right reasons.

Paul Ford, VP of Community Development  at SendGrid, is a longtime Techstars partner and mentor. The relationship goes back to 2009 when Paul first partnered with Techstars at Rackspace. A serial entrepreneur himself, when Paul learned about Techstars, he was blown away by the potential. Paul became such a big fan of Techstars that he brought them in as partners when he was at SoftLayer and again at SendGrid.

“As a former startup founder myself, when I saw the Techstars model, I immediately understood the enormous value they were providing. To offer a system, mentors, and a support structure to help entrepreneurs succeed, is just a massive advantage for these startups which fuels their growth and drives success for the long term. ‘Techstars for Life’ is a real commitment.”

Tony Blank, Sr. Developer Evangelist for SendGrid, explains SendGrid’s strategic approach to the relationship: “Before SendGrid comes into a Techstars program, we first look at the companies and try to anticipate their needs ahead of time. We take time to understand what stage the teams are and then decide if a workshop or presentation would provide value to them. It’s a careful distinction. We don’t come in and do a product walk through of SendGrid’s dashboard because that’s not going to be relevant to all the teams’ stages.”

“When we first meet with them, our goal is to gain a better understanding of what problems they’re facing, how far along they are, and set the stage for the partnership. How can we help these teams throughout the next year? We want to help them become good senders, to help them scale,” Tony says. “Yes, we do provide a year of SendGrid product credit -- but more than that, we want to work with the teams to truly build the relationship and help them solve their business challenges.” 



Benefits to Both Partners and Startups

SendGrid has learned how to cultivate the partnership so that the benefit is to the founders first. As Tony explains, “It’s a very good example of a karma-driven model. When we do this for the right reasons, it always works out best in the end. We provide value to the founders as experts and as we work to help their business succeed, our business succeeds along with it.”

The relationship begins with SendGrid coming on-site to do office hours during the Techstars program, but that’s not where it ends. They stay in touch during the three-month period with follow up calls where they meet the rest of the team and pull in more people from SendGrid to offer expertise. Then, towards the end of the accelerator program, they check in again to see where they are and where they need help. By this point, the teams are better able to articulate what they need. Post program, SendGrid continues to support from an email delivery perspective, and also with fundraising support and introductions to investors, VCs and other funding sources.

The relationship building is paying off. Last year, nearly 100 Techstars companies joined SendGrid's Accelerate program and so far, 30% have converted to paying customers. 

“We love partners like Techstars  because they all do a lot of the hard work for us! Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed across this massive worldwide network. They find the very best startups who are poised for massive growth and then we get to grow our business right alongside of theirs. We are an email infrastructure provider. We’re only as cool as what people build on top of us,” explains Tony.

“We give back and give first - we give knowledge, advice and expertise. And we build a relationship that comes back to us tenfold. The ROI on a partnership with a Techstars is a lot esier to understand and is immediately more valuable than a lot of the other channels out there.”


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